Colorado takes step toward offering domestic partner benefits to state workers

The Denver Post reports that a bill narrowly passed its first test that would make domestic partners of Colorado state employees eligible for coverage under state group-benefit plans.

The bill, Senate Bill 88 from Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, passed out of a Senate legislative committee by a 4-3 party-line vote after spirited debate.

“It is the right policy,” Veiga told committee members. “It is the right time.”

The bill is the more modest of two bills seeking to give greater standing to domestic partners. The other, House Bill 1260 from Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, would make it easier for unwed couples, including gay couples, to plan their estates and share benefits in times of tragedy.

A number of speakers cast Veiga’s bill as a matter of basic fairness. State employee Bob Bongiovanni told the committee that though he likes his job, if his partner of 20 years suddenly lost his own health-care coverage, Bongiovanni would have to find another job with benefits that could cover both of them.

“My employer, the state of Colorado, has decided that our commitment is not worthy of recognition,” Bongiovanni said. “Could you in good conscience draw on your health insurance while watching your husband or your wife suffer with none?”

But bill opponents, such as the Focus on the Family-connected Colorado Family Institute, said it would be unfair to ask taxpayers to subsidize a policy that some might find immoral.

The bill next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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